A Maidan Museum in Ukraine getting closer to reality. MYMEDIA were the first to support this great idea.
“Mom, I’d die for you, and I won’t let anyone hurt you. I’m here for Ukraine and for our parents, and I won’t leave the Maidan without victory.”
So reads the inscription on a simple plywood shield, made by one young protester two years ago at the height of the Euromaidan demonstrations in Kyiv.
The shield, together with almost 2,000 other exhibits collected by civic activists, is now to be displayed in the Maidan Museum, which was officially registered on Jan. 20.
“When the protests began, I asked myself, how I can contribute to the revolution,” says Ihor Poshyvailo, director of The Revolution of Dignity Museum.
“I couldn’t throw Molotov cocktails, but as a museum worker I could help in some other ways”
Together with Vasyl Rozhko of the Culture Ministry, and Mykola Skyba, director of Agency of Cultural Strategies, Poshyvailo started collecting signs, banners, bats, helmets and shields covered with drawings – anything that would tell the story of the EuroMaidan protests later. As the revolution reached its dreadful, bloody culmination, they wrote down the protestors’ stories, took pictures and tried to save examples of protest art.
The idea of creating a museum devoted to the Revolution of Dignity was soon supported by other activists. At the end of the summer of 2014, public relations firm pro.mova joined the endeavor.
The exhibits moved to two location before ending up at the Ivan Honchar Museum of folk culture, where Poshyvailo was the deputy director. The majority of items are there now.
Activists also added tires and barricade parts to their collection after the city administration cleared up Independence Square. They spoke with demonstrators and street cleaners, convincing them to donate items for the museum. Protesters cooperated, donating a number of items, including a two-meter-tall catapult. The communal cleaning service, however, ignored the requests.
“People didn’t really understand why collecting all those things and creating a Maidan Museum was so important,” Poshyvailo told the KyivPost.
“These things from the present time aren’t supposed to be valuable. But all these exhibits can recreate the atmosphere of the revolution and tell its story much better than just words and photos.”
The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance also joined the initiative, giving it the most famous exhibit – Yolka, the metal frame of the Christmas tree from Independence Square. Authorities used the excuse of erecting the city’s Christmas tree to forcibly clear the square of protesters on the night of Nov. 29-Nov. 30.
Eventually, the Ukrainian government also backed the initiative. On Nov. 18, 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers decreed to establish the Memorial Complex of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes – Museum of the Revolution of Dignity.
“This museum won’t describe just the events of the Revolution of Dignity,” Poshyvailo says. “That’s because there were at least four ‘Maidans’ – the Revolution on Granite in 1990, the Ukraine without Kuchma mass protest campaign in 2000, the Orange Revolution in 2004, and the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014.”
Thus the purpose of the museum is to show Ukraine’s path to freedom. This includes the Ukrainian War of Independence in 1917-1921, the Cossacks, and many other related topics. It will also be a platform for lectures. One has started entitled Lessons of Freedom, which provides lessons on freedom to senior students in schools, trains teachers and interactive lessons for children.
Activists took inspiration from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the European Solidarity Centre and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Poshyvailo’s vision for the facility is to have a thematic restaurant and hotel, and a space that could be rented for events connected to the idea of the museum.
Painter Volodymyr Svachiy stands next to a canvas that was painted by protesters during the EuroMaidan Revolution. (Bohdan Poshyvailo)
Some items collected include two bullet-ridden helmets of killed protesters, to the car of an AutoMaidan member that was damaged by the police while it was delivering tires to Independence Square. One of the most interesting exhibits are seven huge canvases (10x15 meters), brought to the Maidan by a painter from Lviv, Volodymyr Svachiy. Five of them were placed on Independence Square. Another two were taken to Donetsk and Luhansk just before the beginning of the war. Protesters used them to artistically express their feelings.
“These canvases show how the mood on the Maidan changed after the killings,” said Poshyvailo.
“At first people drew optimistic things like flowers or the sun, and they used clear bright colors. Later, after the mass murder, the colors became dark, and the paintings expressed pain and despair.”
Although the museum is officially registered, it has no staff, no location and no financing yet. At first the Trade Unions Building, which served as the headquarters of demonstrators during the revolution, was reckoned to be the perfect location – but it is still the property of the Federation of Trade Unions. Now the Ukrainian House on European Square is considered the best location for a temporary exhibition. The best option for a permanent home would be the spot on Heavenly Hundred Heroes Avenue – formerly Instytutska Street – next to where dozens of Maidan protesters were shot by snipers.
There’s no building design yet so the exact amount of money needed isn’t known. Similar museums in Poland cost approximately Hr 1 billion ($38.5 million). A present the state budget has no provisions for financing the Revolution of Dignity Museum, but Poshyvailo hopes to see some funding allocated when the budget is revised this month. He’s also looking for opportunities to raise additional financing from private donors or foundations.